As we age and get closer to the last stages of life, we sometimes have regrets about experiences we didn’t have or ones that passed us by. I’m not yet at that stage (I hope), but I have arrived at a period where I’m delighted that certain cultural phenomena are leaving me behind. I’ve named several here and I’m sure I can come up with more and you can too.
I’ll start with bitcoin. It’s something I don’t understand and am thankful I never have to.
The second cultural experience that I’m happy to miss is ageism on the job, specifically what can happen to someone starting a new job, but by no means a first job, well before the age of sixty-five.
From an article by Tad Friend in the November 20, 1917, “New Yorker”: At fifty-one, a laid-off reporter takes a job at a startup company where his boss is in his twenties and has been on the job for a month. The reporter doesn’t dress up, but fails to come to work dressed as a complete slob, and finds himself, “surrounded by programmers in flip-flops who nickname him Grandpa Buzz.” He soon learns that the “expiration date” for tech sector employees is forty. Heaven forbid if he’d shown up — no, not naked — wearing a sport coat.
The third is related to social media. These days I’m relieved I’m not a teenager or college-age student. These young people — usually women — have an opportunity to learn every ten seconds from Facebook, or worse, from some campus rating system, how many of their contemporaries think they’re unattractive or unpopular, and how many social events they’re missing out on because no one wants them there.
Before the age of extreme social media you could enjoy life without knowing what you hadn’t been invited to. I learned this when I worked on the planning committee for my most recent and probably last high school reunion. Other members of the group were making reference to the popular pizza spot in our area where apparently everyone congregated, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I am thankful that since I didn’t know I was missing out back in high school, I had no reason to feel slighted.
On-line photo and message-sharing platforms are vehicles that allow one to do more than simply insult. They can make multi-millionaires out of twenty-somethings who post on them, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I just read about a disturbing new trend from another “New Yorker” article authored by Jiayang Fan. Called “internet celebrity face” in Chinese, it has spread to more of Asia and is moving to the U.S.
It involves posting clever, silly and sexy selfie videos but with a new twist. Users can and do add apps that allow them to change their appearance before they post their works. They can “smooth out, tone, slim, contour faces, whiten teeth, resize irises, cinch waists and add height.”
Of the generation using this and similar apps, the writer says, “No one I asked would consider posting or sending a photo that hadn’t been improved.”
A few of these young internet celebrities are making millions selling ads. Their biggest day-to-day worries focus on whether their current video has gone viral. It’s a form of fake news, but the lie is not in their words but in “improved” faces.
On the other hand, is anyone developing an app for marionette lines? Maybe the Chinese app developers can create a new market they haven’t yet considered.